By Bob Uphues
Interested in cycling along the bike paths comprising Cook County Forest Preserve District's trail network but don't have a bike or don't want to lug one along?
There's an app for that. And a bike, as well.
Last week, the Cook County Forest Preserve District rolled out a new dockless bike-sharing pilot program to make it easier for people to enjoy bicycling the more than 300 miles of trails in the system.
"Not everyone who comes to the forest preserves owns a bike, so this is a great opportunity for Cook County residents and visitors," said Cook County Forest Preserve District President Toni Preckwinkle in a press release. "Expanding our bikeshare program is a great way to get more people to enjoy the outdoors and our beautiful trails."
Among the first of the roughly 25 dockless bike stations to go live last week was a location in the parking lot of the Cermak Woods, whose entrance is on Ogden Avenue just east of Gage Avenue in Lyons.
In the coming weeks, the rest of the 50 stations – giving access to 500 bikes – will be activated throughout the forest preserve system, including nearby locations in the parking lot of Miller Meadow, on First Avenue, across the street from Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, and at the Cook County Forest Preserve District headquarters at 536 N. Harlem Ave. (at Lake Street) in River Forest.
Other dockless bike stations will be located along the Salt Creek Trail, starting at the parking lot of the Brookfield Woods, on 31st Street just west of McCormick Avenue; in the parking lot of the 26th Street Woods, between Harrison and Morgan avenues in LaGrange Park; and in the lot at the Brezina Woods Picnic Grove, whose entrance is on LaGrange Road between Cermak Road and Scotdale Road in LaGrange Park.
There will also be two dockless stations in Bemis Woods – one in Bemis North and one in Bemis South – in Western Springs west of Wolf Road.
The dockless bike rental idea isn't exactly new to the Cook County Forest Preserve District, but it's not surprising you hadn't run into it around here. Back in 2015, the forest preserve district partnered with Bike and Roll Chicago to set up a half-dozen bike share stations in far-flung locations mainly in northern suburbs and Chicago's far north side. The system supported just 50 bikes and the bikes were docked at stations.
Bike and Roll Chicago, which is still a partner as the system expands, is charged with maintaining the fleet of blue bicycles, which are emblazoned with the words "Bike the Preserves."
And the addition of a new partner – a mobile app called HOPR – the forest preserve district is able to ditch the docks and allow people to download the app onto the smartphones or tablets and use it to unlock and re-park bikes at any of the hubs in the system.
Users can opt to pay $2.50 for a 30-minute trip (plus 10 cents per each additional minute) or by a $60 seasonal membership for 90 minutes of ride time (plus 10 cents per additional minute) per day through November.
The app can be downloaded from the App Store on your smartphone, and information is available at gohopr.com/chicagoland.
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